I recently read a published article from an acquaintance about how group fitness was currently experiencing a bad rap and taken a turn for the worst. The article centered on the lack of personalized attention, repetitive programs, and poor coaching. It’s this exact reason why I typically refer to my small-group workouts at the studio as a “session” or “workout” instead of a class. Members and some of you reading this article, will call them “classes”. I’ve never been a fan of that because I picture a group of people following a trainer in a one-size-fits all stale workout in a class. I understand, that is just my personal bias and hang-up. When evaluating and ranking elementary schools, one of the biggest factors is the class size. I don’t care how credentialed the teacher or stellar the curriculum, the larger the group, the more it’s going to affect the quality of the teaching. We all learn differently, so it’s the initial job of the teacher to determine how someone learns, then adjust to it. That’s easier said than done, and at times, not very realistic. Some people are visual learners, others are oratory, and then there are those who are kinesthetic learners. It’s my opinion that as a group grows in size the instruction gets diluted. In the NFL, for example, a team has 53 players plus 10 on the practice squad. That’s a total of 63 players. If you observe a practice you’ll see a head coach, 3 coordinators (offense, defense, special teams), and multiple position coaches (quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, linebackers, etc). The average coach will work directly with 3-7 players. Many agree that in the NFL the difference between winning and losing is the quality of the coaching.
Before I opened the studio I ran a beta-test on how large I could go, in regards to the size of a training group, before I felt there was a drop off in quality of instruction. Also, was it sustainable? I didn’t need anyone to tell me. I wanted to use my 25 years of experience and make my own decision. In the past, I’ve been able to teach 10 people at once. I felt the personalized attention was good, but afterwards I was drained. I knew that I could not maintain that 6 days a week, morning, noon & night. More important, I believe that what gave me success over the years was how I treated each client as an individual. I didn’t want to sacrifice that experience or quality to simply pack them in. So I determined after 1 year of testing, my small groups would be maxed out at six people.
I was able to personalize it to everyone’s needs and observe everything. I wanted each person to feel that they had a private workout with me. There are a few considerations: type of workout, equipment used, and gym floor layout. Small group training is on the rise. That’s a good thing. My studio is a small training facility, so I feel on the right side of the curve. That doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the one-on-one vibe to accommodate small groups. When you walk into our place we always greet you by your name; remember “Cheers”? We introduce fellow members to one another if they’re going to be training at the same time. As we warm up, it’s not uncommon for someone to share what’s going on in their life. Some choose to keep to themselves. I call this part of the workout (the warm-up) “the get your mind right” time. Members will foam roll and perform a few dynamic warm-up drills as they prepare for the upcoming workout.
What fellow trainers need to realize is that you don’t have to throw away the personalized attention because you’re training multiple people. People need to realize that a competent coach should be able to adjust to their needs in a small group setting. It is a skill. My coaches will tell you it takes a few weeks to get accustomed to it. It does work and I believe is the future of personal training. More people know and value the instruction of a certified personal trainer and are investigating various opportunities to get access to it. People are willing to share the time and attention of the trainer. It’s possible to have a beginner next to an advanced person without a drop off in quality.
Here’s a quick story that just happened this past Friday at the studio. New member Mary walks-in at 5:45am. She has just purchased our 21 day quick start program and is coming back from years of in-activity. She’s overweight and has a few mobility issues. She heard about us from a friend who’s been training privately with me for years. She has wanted to work-out for years but felt too self-conscious to join one of the larger big-box gyms nearby. Upon coming in I tell her two other people will be joining her for our 6am TRX Flow workout. TRX Flow is a 50 minute, full-body mobility, strengthening and core workout. We use the TRX suspension straps exclusively. Mary seems a little apprehensive. She asks “Are the other people advanced?” I tell her both are intermediate level, and have been coming for over 6 months. The other two arrive. Throughout the workout, I make multiple adjustments for both Mary and the other two. Some of the exercises I regress for Mary. A few I progress for one of the others. The next 50 minutes is filled with sweat and a lot of laughter. After we’re done, Mary gives a high five to one of the guys and shouts “That was awesome”. I smile to myself. That’s what I see every day in my place. That’s what we do. That’s what J & D Fitness is all about.
See you at the studio.